Dear Friends of Help Lesotho,
Dawn is breaking as I write. The chorus of birds outside in the massive eucalyptus tree are particularly keen to announce the day! I got up especially early today to wash my hair while hot water was available. We got a notice that the power will be out all day. It is rare to get a notice – usually, it just stops! In the last six weeks we have had enough rain to green up the land and build hope for some kind of harvest. Climate change has wreaked havoc with sub-Saharan Africa. There are long periods of drought, killing the expensive seedlings. Rain comes late in the season, if at all, and barely fills the rivers with enough water to service its people. Many villages are without water for months – even the capital city.
I drove to Maseru to meet with UNICEF on a project they are funding and to have a lovely visit with their majesties Queen ‘Masenate and King Letsie III. It is always a pleasure to chat with them about our work and the needs of the Basotho.
Our plans to hold a teacher training conference this coming week have been thwarted by a teachers’ strike. The working conditions for teachers are very difficult. With so many orphans, teachers are now surrogate parents, socializers, health educators about HIV/AIDS, on top of their normal responsibilities. Many live in substandard housing on the site of the schools – often far from their families and amenities. Issues of reliable and fair payment are always an issue here.
I did a 90-minute session for the opening day of the Leaders-in-Training program. I love having time to talk to the youth – that is my favourite thing. On their first day, they are unsure what this is – how can it be that discussions will be open and frank about the topics that trouble their young hearts to the point of depression and often suicidal thoughts? How is it that there is no criticism or judgement? Why did someone not help me before this? If I had known all this as a child, I would have made better choices.
The level of activity here would surprise you. Staff are constantly out in the field – in the far mountains training herd boys, in almost impossible to reach villages training young mothers, organizing GIRL4ce performances to end early and forced child marriage and gender based violence, and going up-and-down between granny huts making sure they are all right and have the support they need. They are the most caring staff you can imagine – thoughtful, positive, and totally committed to their populations. Although we have the two Centres, the majority of our work is out in the villages.
We rotate the villages where we work. One of our strategic decisions was to move into a fourth district, Berea. We have been investigating a particular area, its needs and possibilities. We only work in areas where the local chiefs and councils are supportive and participatory. We will compound our impact by doing many interventions in a more concentrated geographical catchment. To this end, ‘M’e Mampaka and I went to do additional reconnaissance. It is often difficult for me to go places as that raises local expectations that something is going to happen, but I wanted to see it for myself. We went unannounced. In the area under consideration – there is a tarred road the whole way – I was shocked. This would be the first! The valley is more fertile than other areas as the mountains catch the rain there. We drove around and then spent 45 minutes with the local mid-wife and nurse at the clinic. The village has a clinic, a Catholic Mission and church, a high school and a primary school. The closest police are 35 minutes away. There are no jobs. Youth stand in small groups near the road. The nurse tells us that there is a very high incidence of sexual violence, that the men like to fight, that there are so many orphans and an unusually high percentage are HIV positive. We spoke to local women – they are the ones who truly know the issues their community is facing. We heard stories of vulnerability that would make you weep and are actually too delicate for me to write about.
One of those lovely women came to tell us that one of our tires was entirely flat – undoubtedly due to the sharp rocks on one particular road we travelled after turning off the tarred road. Yikes! The truck I drove that day was massive and there was no way I was going to change a tire on it! Long story short – after a significant delay in the hot sun, our driver Ntate Motsamai, came to rescue us. In all the thousands of kilometers I have driven and in the most remote and dangerous mountain roads here, this was my first flat tire! I was so glad we were within cell range!
Last week I picked up our donor trip guests from the airport. This is Jennifer Parr’s eighth visit to Lesotho! She has been such a valuable supporter in so many ways, including chairing our Board for ten years. Susan Richardson is here for the second time and the others are welcomed to Lesotho for their first: Erika Seguin, Susan Shackell, Linda Jamieson, Kathleen Flynn, Johanne Seguin and Nives Mion.
They have all been such good sports – the first day – no electricity or water! Each one is keen to explore every opportunity. They are flexible and compassionate.
I end with a quote from a local woman after seeing the fabulous but realistic GIRL4ce performance to end child early and force marriage and gender-based violence. It is but one indicator of the incredible and imperative impact your donations are making.
“Really I did not know there are such laws that protect our girls from being victimized of child early and forced marriage as it is a norm in our village. Hence I am very glad that every member of our village is here to grasp the information.”
Thank you for reading along.
Peg Herbert, Founder and Executive Director